Megan Louise McCall
Empowering friendships: planting seeds of moral and civic agency within a Diversity Awareness school curriculum.

Author: Megan Louise McCall, Saint Louis University.

Title: “Empowering friendships: planting seeds of moral and civic agency within a Diversity Awareness school curriculum”

The tasks and obligations of friendship have long been believed to be important for the childhood development of cognitive skills and social-emotional understandings (e.g., Hartup, 1996; Newcomb & Bagwell, 1996; Piaget, 1948). For this reason, educators have worked to promote children’s friendships. In particular, cooperative learning techniques have been successfully employed to inspire compassion and a respect for diversity, broaden students’ scope of justice to those who would otherwise be considered outsiders, and increase personal commitment to moral virtues (Johnson & Johnson, 2008). Against this backdrop, two school principals approached our research team requesting assistance with the development of a diversity and civil rights awareness educational program (called Readers 2 Leaders, or R2L) to foster the development of friendships between African-American middle-school students and Caucasian third-grade students. The principals believed that the program would provide students with much-needed multicultural exposure and inspire a nascent sense of civic agency based upon an antipathy for racial inequality. The program took the form of cooperative learning exercises, occurring twice a week over a 6-week period. Activities required that students rely upon the unique strengths of every group member to successfully complete tasks, thereby augmenting each child’s felt agency. Qualitative data on students’ perceptions of diversity and civic action will be presented. These findings were collected as part of the R2L program evaluation, and were obtained in accordance with our university’s ethical code. Participation in the program was voluntary. Data were stripped of identifying markers by the schools prior to our team’s analyses.

The DARE Collaborative is a research partnership focused on the digital arts in education, led by the UCL Institute of Education and the British Film Institute. It has a membership of university researchers, teachers and educators in cultural organisations with an interest in arts, media, culture and new literacies in the context of education and digital media.
Centro en Investigación Avanzada en Educación